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  logo-new-grey  Winter 2018 

Back to the light...


I don't know about you but I find the run-up to the Christmas holiday a difficult time to keep up my training. The mornings are dark, my deck is icy or wet and slippery from rain. And there are lots of distractions: what presents to buy for people, wondering if the turkey will be big enough and why I bought such a big tree? (Last year I decided never to do that again, and yet here we are.)


Of course, stuck inside you can meditate and the exercises don't need a lot of space so perhaps all is not lost.


But, suddenly, it is all over, new year has passed and we are moving back to the light. Lighter mornings and evenings and though there can still be problems with an icy deck it doesn't feel so closed in and claustrophobic.


If you find it difficult to find the room – or the time – to practise the whole form just pick something, one move, a transition or sequence that you find difficult and work on that. You will be surprised how much that will improve your overall practice.


You may also find it raises questions which you can then bring to the class so that we can develop what you are struggling with. That way everyone can benefit.


The article below may give you a few ideas about some of the basic moves that carry through the form. If you are stuck try standing, steppping or practice weight shifting.


And remember: don't worry if you can't remember something, it is better to practise your mistakes than to do nothing at all.  Telephone 07967 666 794

I was reminded recently of what T T Liang said about tai chi:

"At first I take up T'ai Chi as a hobby,
Gradually I became addicted to it
Finally I can no longer get rid of it
I must keep on practicing for my whole life it is the only way to preserve health 
The more I practice, the more I want to learn from teachers and books.
The more I learn the less I feel I know.
The theory and philosophy of T'ai Chi is so profound and abstruse!
I must continue studying forever and ever ...
It is the only way to improve and better myself."

T'ai Chi Ch'uan for Health and Self Defence
T T Liang, Vintage Books.


Training notes.


The practice of tai chi is a fusion of mind, body and spirit. But learning tai chi can mean getting one thing right at a time. Our mind directs our body pretty much from the beginning but before it all comes together we need to get the body part right.


The basic principles of tai chi require softness and relaxation. Just getting these two things right can bring other things in play.


The problem I had when I first learned tai chi was that there was a lot of 'what' to do but very little 'how' to do it. So I am going to describe a few basic 'hows' in the hope that it will help in the, probably long, learning process.


Standing start: In the beginning there is 'wu ji'


Wu ji is the point from which it all starts. It is neutral, before yin and yang. It is zhang zhuang – standing like a tree.


Place your feet approximately shoulder width apart


Relax your feet (imagine that you have webbed feet like a duck) feel your weight sink into the floor


Move your hips back as though you are sitting on a high stool


Relax your head, down through your neck, shoulders, chest; relax your back so that your spine lengthens, relax your ribs and your pelvic girdle


Make sure that you keep your head upright


Stepping forward

The complication here is that to step properly you need to get your weight distribution (weighting) correct and that is a whole thing on its own.


In the beginning we talk about weighting being 70/30; that is to say that your weight bearing leg takes 70% of your weight and your neutral leg carries 30%.


So I will go with that for the time being


Standing in wu ji turn your right foot out to about 45 degrees from your forward-facing stance


Keeping your weight on your back leg – to do this move your weight slightly to the right so you are 'sitting' on your right hip – move your left leg forward so that your left heel is where your toe was


Move your weight forward onto your left leg. You should feel the weight come off of your right foot


Turn out your left foot and repeat


You can practise this stepping as an exercise. We call this 'dragon walking'

Getting your weighting right


This takes time and practice

In the beginning, while you are learning the form, 70/30 works fine but eventually you will discover that it is closer to 100/0!


You will need this distribution in order to maintain your stability through the transitional moves


The secret, I find, is to 'sit down'


Start from wu ji, remember? You move your hips back as though you are sitting on a high stool


From this position turn out one foot and move your hips over that leg. Do this until you feel the pressure come off of your other leg. You are now in a position to step, or to turn into a transitional move


This is something that it is not easy to teach. Like all of tai chi it is a matter of 'feeling', becoming 'body aware'


One of my teachers told me “I can only teach about half of this. The rest you have to learn for yourself.” Probably the best advice anyone gave me about tai chi


Don't follow your hands


To the casual observer, and most beginners, tai chi is about the hand movements.


Beginners, maybe because of this, will often tend to follow their hand movements like someone learning to dance watches their feet


What can happen when you do this is that your body line also follows your hands and you end up leaning towards the position you are moving into, losing stability


So, lift your head by straightening your neck, sink your back (sit down!)


Move your WHOLE body and let that 'drive' your hands. Then you won't go far wrong.


Just five points but get them right and the whole of your practice will change and progress.

Download this article here


 To read more tai chi essays click here





The Bonsai Tai Chi Academy
Tai chi chuan at The Woollard Centre, Loughton Way, Buckhurst Hill, Essex IG9 6AD

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